- Written by Daniel Livingston
During my junior and senior years of high school, I worked at a restaurant in North Syracuse, NY called The Tiger Lily. A semi up-scale restaurant only open for dinner except for their famous Sunday Brunch. There was also a bar which had it's regulars most night. The restaurant was owned by a man who lived in Buffalo, NY, 150 miles to the west, where he also owed several other restaurants.
I started as the dish washer, but in a few short weeks graduated to the pantry chef and also worked as the Sunday brunch cook. It was one night in 1979 that the head chef first cooked up a batch of Buffalo Wings. It seemed that the owner mentioned it was all the rage in Buffalo. I had not heard of Buffalo Wings which had first appeared in Buffalo Restaurants in the late 60's or early 70's. Apparently they had not made the trip down the NY State thruway until then. I watched as the wings went from the deep fryer to a big metal bowl. The chef then poured in a whole bunch of Original Frank's Hot Sauce, and some butter. The hot wings melted the butter and then he tossed them around in the bowl to get them evenly coated. The smell of the coated wings was different than anything else I could remember. The spiciness cut right through the air and you could almost taste the sauce.
I was instructed to cut up some short stalks of celery and prepare a side bowl of Blue Cheese dressing. We made our "house" Blue Cheese Dressing up special for our salad bar. The only thing special was that we mixed two large containers of Blue Cheese Dressing with one large container of mayonnaise. Yep, that what the secret recipe. You see, mayo was half the price of blue cheese dressing.
The wings were put into one of the large round chafing dishes normally reserved for use on the Sunday Brunch line and then sent out to the bar as a free appetizer. The cut up celery and blue cheese dressing followed behind with a large stack of side plates.
It wasn't long before the bar tender yelled through the small pass-through window to get started on another batch. As one might expect now, the free hot buffalo wings were a hit. Besides, they needed to be washed down with something and the bar tender was kept quite busy keeping up with the thirsty patron's drink requests. It was this second batch that I got a chance to taste. A good chef always taste their food and I certainly wanted to be a good one. The second batch of wings had just come out of the deep fryer and freshly coated with the hot sauce and butter concoction. I grabbed a wing section (as opposed to the baby drum-sticks) and dunked it into the blue cheese dressing, scooping up a chunk of the blue cheese itself. Not exactly sure how to eat them, I stuck the entire wing in my mouth and while still holding on to the end, pulled it back out stripping off most of the meat. I was in love. Hot, spicy and tangy all at the same time. My nasal passages opened up and my taste buds begged for more.
I came to relaize how important the Hot Sauce to Butter ratio was. You could not use straight hot sauce since it would not completely stick to the wings. Adding a little butter to the hot sauce gave it the ability to coat the wings, keeping the hot sauce stuck to the hot wing surface. I have found that "Sweet Baby Ray's Wing Sauce and Glaze" has the right combination of hot suace and butter right out of the bottle. It's my go-to sauce.